Dancing bears and mirror lakes: Valtteri Mulkahainen’s spectactular photos of Finnish nature

Finnish photographer Valtteri Mulkahainen's iconic shot of "dancing" bear cubs

A few years ago, Mr. Valtteri Mulkahainen of Sotkamo hit the news in Finland and globally, as his pictures of “dancing” bear cubs in the Suomussalmi forests captured the imagination of nature friendly people everywhere. We wanted to feature Valtteri in our series on Finnish photography, so we’ve caught up with him in a short interview on wolves, using camera gear in the extreme, iPhone killing cold… and Pokémon Go.

Valtteri’s pictures are available for purchase and licensing on the 500px photography community.



1. How did you create an interest for photography and was nature always the main subject?

“About 7-8 years ago, I graduated from training biathletics and I had a lot of free time in the summer, while on vacation. I found in the closet a small camera and started taking pictures of nature. That kickstarted my passion for photography. Although I am quite proficient in photographing of wild animals, I usually prefer nature shots. Right, I really love photographing in taiga centers, such as the Martinselkonen wildlife center.”



2. How do your cameras hold up with Finnish winter conditions?

“This depends on the camera. I shoot with the Canon 5D Mark II. The most severe frost at which I’ve used it was -35 C. The manual says that taking photos is not recommended below -25. Normally, I keep the in a bag, into which I always put it back right after shooting. When I return home, I also try to be careful about letting my equipment slowly acclimate to the inside heat to avoid condensation.





3. Your most famous photos feature bears, but a few years ago, you stated an interest in wolves too. How did that develop and do you have any advice for people interested in photographing wild animals, safety related or otherwise?

“I haven’t managed to take a pictures of wolves. I went several times, right to the center of the taiga. The wolf a very cautious animal, catching one on camera remains on my to-do list.

Wild animals are afraid of people and have the good sense to avoid coming close to humans or settlements. That’s why I really recommend to anyone interested to come over and visit Finnish taiga centers to photograph wildlife. These centers can provide instruction on how to take pictures of animals. Photography usually happens in small, designated shelters in the forest, so it’s safe.”





4. Your previous interviews say you’re a gym/PE teacher by trade. Do you have thoughts on or any experience with using hobbies like photography or gadget trends like Pokemon go to get young people to move around more in their surroundings?

“I work as a teacher of physical education and health at a school in the village of Sotkamo. I think the use of gadgets and games like Pokémon in schools is an interesting idea. Any young person who’d get excited about moving around in the wilderness could very easily find out information about wild animals and learn more about them and their habitats, diets etc.”



Title photo by Valtteri Mulkahainen.


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